In a pivotal closed-door meeting Tuesday morning, John Boehner will pitch colleagues on a bill introduced by a man who voted against him for speaker two years ago.
Language recently introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), a conservative firebrand who was one of the only lawmakers willing to contemplate President Obama’s impeachment – to the “hisses” of GOP colleagues – is at the center of a set of options Boehner and other top Republicans will bring to the rank-and-file.
The surprising move to embrace Yoho’s bill is both a gesture to conservatives anxious for Congress to push back against what Republicans universally see as an unconstitutional usurpation in Obama’s recent executive amnesty, and a means to channel GOP anger away from the government shutdown Boehner is terrified of repeating.
It also shows the handiwork of recently-elected GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who led a quiet effort to craft a GOP response plan over the Thanksgiving break and brought Yoho’s bill to the leadership table.
Tuesday morning, leaders will offer for discussion the full “omnibus” spending bill, a hybrid “cromnibus” bill that carves out funding on immigration for a temporary extension, and various strategic options along with each.
Lawmakers close to the process say the meeting is no kabuki dance: the rank-and-file will truly be setting the GOP’s course.
“We need to give members time to process what the options are – and leadership is going to listen,” chief deputy whip Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) told reporters.
“It’s not just for show,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ). “They don’t want to get something to the floor and then have some big rebellion, they really want to get it right the first time. And they’ve learned the hard way that the way to do that is to build everything from the bottom up instead of shoving it from the top down.”
A week since Republicans left town without a plan to respond to Obama, opinions still vary widely on what to do.
Salmon wants to add language to the full omnibus preventing Obama from issuing employment documents to illegal aliens, at least as an opening salvo.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said he wants a six-week continuing resolution to bring the fight into the beginning of the next Congress.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers continues to push for a full omnibus and against conflict of almost any kind.
“There’s some members who don’t want to mess with the possibility of being delayed getting out. They don’t even want to get into the discussion about shutdowns and all that stuff. They just want to get an omnibus passed and get out of here and then come back and fight another day,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-LA).
Before the break, incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) originally pitched the “cromnibus” plan at the weekly Republican Study Committee meeting, and the idea quickly gained steam.
Around that time, Yoho, as reported by Breitbart News, dropped his bill, which prohibits the president from declaring categories of illegal aliens immune from prosecution.
Over the break, Scalise, who was leading conference calls to develop the response, phoned Yoho several times, which was followed by a call by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Now, Yoho is suddenly in the spotlight.
“Congressman Yoho is pleased that leadership is bringing up his bill to address President Obama’s overreach,” said his spokesman, Brian Kaveney.
Several lawmakers said constituents back in their districts were angry about Obama’s executive action.
“They’d love to see the government shut down. Put it in the president’s lap. Play this game back in his corner. If he’s going to be the one turning it down, he’s the one shutting it down. They’re tired of this president,” said Gosar of his constituents.
As for leadership’s response to Obama’s executive order thus far, Gosar said he’s still waiting to see whether it will measure up.
“I never take a look at the heart of a line from their initial response, because sometimes the most vicious response is a calibrated, quiet response,” he said.